Wednesday, June 17, 2015

The sum of the little things can outweigh something larger

Sometimes strangers can leave quite an impression.

I'm at a debate tournament this week... which means staying in a hotel, and going back and forth between other hotels with several thousand debate students, coaches and judges.

On the first day, I was cheerfully greeted by a custodian who was cracking jokes and succeeding in getting most of the people around him to smile. His joy was contagious. That was the most noticeable thing about him. The second most noticeable thing was the crucifix around his neck.

And then... seeing him again yesterday, again cheerful, again spreading joy. Again wearing the cross of Christ.

That's not the type of witness you see everyday. But that's the type of witness that makes a difference.

You see, this man's day had been made so much more difficult by the swarm of 500 people waiting to use the elevator that he also needed to use. But instead of complaining... instead of being angry, he chose to use the time as an opportunity to spread joy.

He was carrying a cross... and that's what made the crucifix around his neck stand out all the more powerfully.

He wasn't doing a mighty deed of courage, or performing some large sacrifice that would be noticed by those around him. He was offering a small sacrifice with joy... maybe so routinely that he no longer saw it as a burden. And that's what made it so powerful.

I read a powerful quote yesterday about the importance of the little things.

"A drop of rain is also a small matter; yet every rain, the heaviest as well as the lightest, is made up of drops."

Those "small drops" can sometimes be the most difficult things to do... not because of the difficulty they pose. In fact, the ease of fulfilling some of these is part of what can make it difficult. Difficult to see the importance. But without that, without the little things, the bigger things grow impossibly hard.

The little things, frequently done, add up to a lot. The great things look grand... they're things we aspire to, and see as praiseworthy. They're things we see as worthwhile. The little things are hard in their littleness. In the humility required to embrace them. The little things betray a lifetime, not a mere moment, of virtue when we see them.

And this person was able to point that out through his actions. I wish I'd thanked him for that witness, for teaching me a lesson without preaching, without thinking about it. Because in those two short encounters, I was blessed to see that little acts can be so much more powerful than great ones.